Foundational Skills Seminars (LDR 101)

Foundational Skills Seminars (LDR 101) explore how the liberal arts inform good leadership. They engage every first-year student in the exploration of an interesting topic while providing the intellectual orientation and skills foundational to college learning and effective leadership. All LDR 101 seminars, regardless of topic, share specific learning goals based on the faculty's conviction that all good leaders work well with others, think analytically and communicate effectively. For these reasons, all LDR 101 seminars place special emphasis on five fundamental intellectual and leadership skills: critical thinking, writing, public speaking, digital literacy and teamwork.

Each seminar is designed to help you do the following, both singly and as a member of a team:

  • Summarize and explain the main ideas of a text, speech, doctrine, principle or belief.
  • Identify and analyze significant issues, problems and questions and evaluate or develop effective responses.
  • Articulate, compare and judge the strengths and weaknesses of two or more competing arguments about an issue, problem or question, supporting your comparative judgment with appropriate evidence.
  • Develop, focus and organize ideas concerning a central topic, and create, revise and present these ideas in written, spoken, visual and digital forms using appropriate sources.
  • Articulate how working toward the outcomes above has informed your understanding of leadership and your capacity to lead.

Foundational Skills Seminars (LDR 101) are:

  • Four-credit hour, academic courses
  • Required of and limited to first-year students (transfer and nontraditional students with sophomore classification are exempt)
  • Offered fall semester only
  • Led by professors who have selected and researched the special topics for these courses
  • Often interdisciplinary, so that students may explore topics from more than one perspective

LDR 101 Courses, Fall 2017

LDR 101-A (Blaich): From Handbills to Hashtags: A Global History of Student Activism

Young people have long been at the forefront of social change. Students in particular have emerged as leaders of protest movements since the mid 19th century, using the tools of critical thinking and exposure to the world of ideas to engage the social and intellectual challenges of their times. This course will examine the leadership and legacy of student movements in a variety of historical periods and places, including: students’ roles in and responses to nationalism, communism and fascism in Europe; decolonization; the Civil Rights movement in the United States; the campaign against the Vietnam War; the Iranian Revolution; the Tiananmen Uprising; and the Arab Spring. We will conclude our study by examining contemporary student movements around the world, as events unfold, for example, in Venezuela, France and the United States. The final project of the semester will invite students to identify and develop a course of action around a contemporary problem of their own choosing.

LDR 101-B (Cain): Race, Gender and Social Change: Case Studies of Women’s Leadership in American History

Struggles for racial and gender equality represent central narratives in the history of the United States, and the leadership of American women has been essential to those struggles. Using a case study approach, this course will examine the lives, identities and values of several prominent—and some not-so-prominent—American women whose ideas and activism have advanced the work of social justice in various historical periods. Main topics include: women’s participation in the American Revolution; women in abolition; women as labor organizers; women’s suffrage; anti-lynching campaigns; women in the Civil Rights movement; feminism and the women’s rights movement; Native American women’s activism; and women’s leadership in Black Lives Matter.  As we consider these topics, we will maintain an ongoing class discussion about what constitutes leadership, whether there are distinctively female forms of effective leadership, and how personal identity informs leadership issues.

LDR 101-C (Denis): Doing Good

The focus of this section is altruism — extreme, effective, and otherwise. We will consider the nature and demands of morality, the role of altruism in a good human life, and how best to do good in the world.

LDR 101-D (Diedrick): International Atlanta

Atlanta—the city and the metropolitan area—is home to the faculty and staff of Agnes Scott College. It is also a new home away from home for our new incoming students, including those of you who will be taking this seminar. Intimately bound up in America’s history, and increasingly important as an international city, Atlanta is home to citizens from all parts of the world and a place where we can explore and become more sensitive to issues of difference in relation to nationality, religion, class, race and gender. This course will explore the complex history, dynamic present and leadership opportunities in the city some call “The Center of the New South,” inviting each member of the seminar (including the professor) to become course experts on some aspect of Atlanta, past or present. This focus will provide a framework for improving each student’s foundational skills for success in college and, by extension, her leadership skills.

LDR 101-E (Drinkwater): “And Still You Persisted”: Resistance and Participation in the Roman World

The focus of this course is the period of Rome's transition from Republic to Empire– two very different modes of political leadership– which we will examine using the prism of the princeps Augustus' formal report of his own accomplishments, the Res Gestae. This fascinating document is predictably one-sided, and yet its pronounced bias is a real boon for our purposes, as it provides an excellent test case in seeking to discover what is missing in communications from a political leader, whether for good or ill.

As we engage with the Res Gestae, we will consider what questions the document leaves us with, where we can go for answers, and how to evaluate competing assessments of the questions the document raises. This will take us both into primary sources– those composed during the time of Augustus– and modern scholars' responses to them. Often these sources will provide contradictory views, presenting a picture of those who resisted Augustus' changes to Roman society and those who participated in his making his vision for a Restored Republic a reality. Our task will be to evaluate the reliability of these sources, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of arguments based upon them, and practice communicating our findings in a range of ways.

LDR 101-F (Osborne-Jelks): Exploring the Leadership of Women of Color Environmental Justice Activists: From the Local to Global Levels

According to environmental sociologist Dr. Dorceta E.Taylor, the intersection of race, class, and gender have had profound impacts on people’s environmental experiences, and have subsequently influenced the political development, ideologies, and activism of grassroots environmental leaders. The environmental justice movement supports women of color in their roles as community leaders who protect home and family. Because women, globally, have primary responsibility for raising families, concerns related to housing, sanitation, food access, and health are paramount. Women of color carry the weight and bear the loads in grassroots environmental struggles to live free of toxic wastes, pollution, and environmental and health inequities. This course with examine the lives and leadership of women working for environmental justice from the local to the global levels. The manner in which these women frame their struggles in the context of racial, class, and gender politics will be examined along with their leadership strategies and propensity to resist and challenge power relations and structural inequalities that perpetrate health, environmental, and economic disparities.  

LDR 101-G (Kingsley): Democracy and its Critics in Ancient Greece

How did democracy arise in the West? Why does this 2,500-year-old system still hold such power in our own modernity? Given this power, why do so many of the fifth and fourth-century BCE thinkers find democracy problematic, and in certain cases, irreparably so? In this course we will explore the origins of democracy in its cultural, social, and political context in Classical Athens. Special attention will be given to an investigation of the critiques of this system of government, and we will engage in lively in-class discussion on the relationship of current challenges to democracy in light of these ancient appraisals of mass-rule. Readings will be diverse, including poetry, oratory, history, medical and philosophical treatises, as well as religious texts, and you will also evaluate material culture and archaeological evidence. Historicizing democracy will allow us to reflect critically upon the individual’s role as a leader in this system of government and the relationship of the people, ‘demos’, to this leader.

LDR 101-H (Koch): Cryptology and Cryptography: The Making and Breaking of Secret Codes

Throughout history, leaders of nations and corporations have searched for ways to exchange messages in secret. In this LDR-101, we will discuss classical ways in which messages were exchanged, from ciphers used by Julius Caesar to public-key ciphers which have evolved since the age of the computer. 

We will see how these codes can be constructed, how we can use them to encode and decode messages ("cryptology"). Just as important, we will investigate the vulnerabilities of ciphers both old a new ("cryptology"), and we will see how each can be broken.

The ciphers we will use and analyze involve using the branches of mathematics called probability, combinatorics, and number theory. No mathematical background is assumed.

LDR 101-I (Korol): Mexican Muralists and the Rise of Public Art

The focus of this course is on Latin American modernism with an emphasis on painters from Mexico like David Álvaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco who emerged as proponents of socialist ideals, communicating their political message through the making of murals. Through their images, we will review the history of the twentieth century in Latin America: a time marked by a series of murderous dictatorships meant to extinguish Communist and Socialist politics from the region. We will connect the historical rise of public art and the use of murals to communicate political messages to the culture of mural making that exists in the city of Atlanta. The class will work in teams to research and make presentations based on particular murals found in the city. We will also read works by women writers such as the Brazilian Clarice Lispector, the Chilean Gabriela Mistral, and the Argentine Silvina Ocampo with an eye for the connections between their aesthetics and the political and social context of the time. 

LDR 101-J (Meyer-Lee): Leadership and Gender in the Young Adult Fantasy Novel and Film

In this section of LDR-101, we will evaluate critically the representation of leadership and gender in several young adult fantasy novels and the films based on them, novels written by both women and men, and featuring both female and male protagonists.  We will examine closely the ways in which these novels and films construct positive and negative models of leadership and of gender, and the ways in which they relate these models to each other.  We will assess how much these models do and do not conform to existing norms and how successful they may be at challenging those norms.   Examples of possible novels and films include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's’ Stone; The Hunger Games; and The Golden Compass.  Students will write reflection papers and film review blog posts, and, in groups as the final project, write, film, and screen a scene from their own young adult fantasy story.

LDR 101-K (Peifer): Calling BS: The What, When, Why, and How. 

In time with limitless information availability at our literal fingertips, critical discernment is key. This section of LDR 101 will adapt selected content from a common course developed by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West at the University of Washington. The course will focus on the marriage of scientific inquiry in STEM and broad liberal arts training.  This seminar will foster students’ ability to both evaluate and construct data-driven, valid arguments as it relates to their future as global leaders and change agents. Throughout the semester, students will: 1) identify a spectrum of questionable data and arguments (What is BS?), 2) determine various situations where dubious information is more likely to arise (When and where does BS show up?), 3) examine different motivations and causes of suspect material (Why is this person BS-ing me?), and 4) practice ethical and empathetic ways to call into question perceived falsehoods and dialogue across differences with others (How do I call out BS effectively when I spot it?)

LDR 101-L (Riter): Tickling the Dragon’s Tail: The Birth of the Atomic Era

Fears that Nazi Germany was developing a new, super weapon that would unleash amounts of energy never imagined with conventional explosives, President Roosevelt approved the birth of the Manhattan Project in October 1939.   A mire four years later in complete secrecy, “The Gadget” was ready for use. The project employed over 130,000 people including military personnel, research scientists, and ordinary people from all walks of life, and cost nearly $2 billion. In this seminar, we will examine the history, science and effects on society through essays and oral histories of young scientists, voices of the young women found in the nonfiction work entitled The Girls of the Secret City by Denise Kiernan, the lens of Photographer Ed Westcott, and various documentaries. 

LDR 101-M (Smith):  Feminist Leadership and Visual Practice:  Looking through Project Womanhouse and Identity Politics

This seminar focuses on Womanhouse, a project in the Feminist Art Program at CalArts in the early 1970s, which sought to change representation of and by women as it introduced new pedagogical approaches and aspirational goals: its co-leaders were training college women to become professional artists. We will consider how Womanhouse reflects its historical context and nonetheless provides enduring lessons about identity formation and feminist leadership.  We will also study works in Agnes Scott College’s permanent collection to see how later artists, in the 1980s and 1990s, have extended identity politics to disparate artistic practices to represent various gender, sexual, and racial identities.  This seminar, more generally, considers how we negotiate, communicate and create identity in visual terms. Throughout the course, we will examine our practices of looking as we analyze the ways that contemporary artists use images for personal expression and cultural resistance, considering both how we can read their images and how we can (and do) construct our own. 

LDR 101-O (Thorsrud): What to do about disagreement

When you disagree about important issues with someone you consider to be as intelligent and well informed as you are, what should you do? In this course we will explore opposing views regarding ethics, science and the nature of happiness in order to determine which, if any, are most rationally defensible. We will also reflect on this general approach to resolving disagreements and consider how it might help us to become effective and ethical leaders.